As both a history buff and a lifelong collector of sports memorabilia, Nanoose Bay landscaper Dennis Holme knew exactly what he was seeing in 2002 when one of his customers showed him an aged, wooden hockey stick bearing the signatures of each member of the 1942-43 New York Rangers National Hockey League team.
But he still couldn’t quite believe it.
The stick had belonged to Dudley “Red” Garrett, whose name graces the memorial trophy awarded each year to the Rookie of the Year in the American Hockey League.
Garrett’s sister, Allison Good, was living in Nanaimo at the time when Holme, a landscaper, was asked to look after the home she shared with her husband, Don.
“One day Don says to me, ‘You want to see something neat?’” said Holme. “And he takes me into the garage and pulls down this hockey stick. He had to blow the sawdust off it; it was just sitting on a shelf. I was like, ‘You gotta be kidding me.’”
Holme received an even bigger shock when he was given the stick and a collection of other memorabilia — including Garrett’s game-worn jersey and skates and personal letters — by the family after Allison died in January of 2013.
“I’m the keeper of the collection,” said Holme, 41. “I certainly wouldn’t say I’m the owner. I don’t want to use it for personal gain, but I would like to see it used to raise money for veterans and first responders who have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).”
As a National Hockey League player, Garrett did not have a particularly distinguished career on the ice. After being drafted and signed by his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs, the Ontario native was traded to the Rangers and played in just 23 NHL games for the club, scoring one goal and one assist.
But his legacy was cemented when he became the first NHL player killed in World War II, after he and 91 crewmates died when their Naval ship HMCS Shawnigan was sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Newfoundland Nov. 25, 1944.
In 1947, the AHL established the Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Trophy to honour its rookie of the year.
Dennis Holme holds up the game sweater of Dudley “Red” Garrett, who skated for the New York Rangers of the NHL in 1942-43. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS
Garrett’s mother had compiled scrapbooks of Dudley’s accomplishments, with newspaper clippings, photos, telegrams and more. She saved a treasure trove of her son’s possessions, including hockey and military gear and every letter he wrote from the time he left home to play hockey to his final letter from the Shawnigan — ironically dated Nov. 11, 1944.
Upon her death, the collection went to her daughter, Allison, who still had it when Holme met her and Don.
Taken by Holme’s response to the signed hockey stick, Don Good told him there was much more and pulled a Budget moving box from a closet to reveal the collection.
“He said, ‘You want to show it to friends? Take it,’” Holme said. “The first time I tried, though, I took it right back. I got a case of the nerves; I didn’t want to be responsible for this stuff.”
Holme remained friendly with the couple and their family. Don Good died in 2009, and Allison’s family offered the collection to him following Allison’s funeral service.
Holme has turned his family room into a shrine of sports memorabilia he’s collected since his youth, but the Garrett goods are not displayed there.
“I keep this stuff in a safe,” said Holme, who has had the material appraised but prefers not to share its value.
Holme said both the AHL and the New York Rangers are aware of the collection, but he is reluctant to donate it to those organizations because it would help raise money for them.
“In my opinion, they have other ways to raise money. I want this to go to veterans,” said Holme, himself a 12-year member of the Nanoose Bay Volunteer Fire Department.
He has shown the collection at Ballenas and Kwalikum secondary schools on Remembrance Day, but hopes it can be shown to the public to raise funds for PTSD sufferers.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen,” he said. “But I’m not about to profit on it.”
Dudley “Red” Garrett appears during his tryout with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942. — Photo submitted by Dennis Holme